Chris Cornell (1964-2017) was best known as the frontman of alternative rock titans Soundgarden and Audioslave, though his solo acoustic performances were equally electrifying. A prolific songwriter, Cornell’s catalog also comprises several solo albums and soundtrack credits – notably, the James Bond theme song "You Know My Name" and his final release, "The Promise."
Cornell first became serious about playing acoustic guitar in the early days of Soundgarden – the band he co-founded in Seattle during the mid-’80s and with whom he would achieve multi-platinum-selling international success with in the ‘90s.
But it wouldn’t be until the Audioslave era of the ‘00s when Cornell performed his first solo acoustic show. “I struggled a little, ’cause I had never done it before,” he told Acoustic Guitar magazine in 2015. “I played some songs acoustically that I’d never played acoustically before. It all worked – in that context right then and there.”
Before long, Cornell was touring as a solo artist and further developing his craft as an acoustic performer. “It was just a matter of allowing myself to do it, allowing myself to struggle, and allowing myself to figure out what the feel of an acoustic instrument is,” he said.
Cornell’s acoustic guitar of choice for the stage was often a Martin D-28 Marquis – a classic Dreadnought design featuring an Adirondack spruce top with forward-shifted scalloped X-bracing, East Indian rosewood back and sides, and ebony fingerboard and bridge. And in this 2017 clip from CBS This Morning, Cornell uses the guitar to perform the Soundgarden smash “Black Hole Sun.”
Appearing on the band’s 1994 album Superunknown and released as a single that year, he reportedly wrote a large portion of the song in his head during a car journey. "I wrote the song thinking the band wouldn't like it,” he told one interviewer. “Then it became the biggest hit of the summer.”
Click here (opens in new tab) to purchase Chris Cornell’s acoustic live album Songbook.
Rod Brakes is a music journalist with an expertise in guitars. Having spent many years at the coalface as a guitar dealer and tech, Rod's more recent work as a writer covering artists, industry pros and gear includes contributions for leading publications and websites such as Guitarist, Total Guitar, Guitar World (opens in new tab), Guitar Player (opens in new tab) and MusicRadar (opens in new tab) in addition to specialist music books, blogs and social media. He is also a lifelong musician.
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